The gap between the leagues grows wider

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As least psychically, as the GMs who met in Chicago last are said to be increasingly wary of players moving from the NL to the AL:

His shoulders shrugged. His lips pursed. But Kenny Williams bit his tongue one syllable too late.

“A guy going from the American League to the National League, no disrespect, but . . . There are guys in the American League who go to the National League and
don’t do well, but there are not too many of them
that I can think of.”

The two most familiar reasons for the A.L.’s recent dominance are cited: the DH and, more significantly, the competitive pressures caused by the Yankees’ and Red Sox’ big spending. The latter even affects teams outside of the AL East, as the frequent unavailability of the wild card — the Yanks and Sox usually win it — makes them have to shoot for the division title. In the NL, in contrast, it’s easier in any given year for any given team to make the playoffs.

The differences between the leagues are very real, but I’m skeptical that those differences have yet to result in serious impacts on the free agent market. The alleged poster boy for the phenomenon — Matt Holliday — is probably going to get a large contract from an AL team.  I can’t recall any transaction in recent years where actual team sources — as opposed to armchair analysts — cited league differences as a factor in the deal or the price of the deal or anything like that.

Yes, I’m sure the teams analyze it, but I’d be shocked if a team’s front office has actually ever said “No, we just can’t do that deal. The guy’s an NL player, and at the end of the day, I don’t believe he’s worth what they’re asking for him.”

Julio Urias to undergo season-ending shoulder surgery

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The news has gone from bad to worse for Dodgers’ left-hander Julio Urias, who is scheduled for anterior capsule surgery on his left shoulder next Tuesday and expected to be sidelined through the middle of the 2018 season. His MRI came back negative on Wednesday, giving the Dodgers some hope that the 20-year-old’s bout of shoulder inflammation wasn’t masking any structural damage, but the pain lingered several days later and prompted further concern from the club. The procedure will be performed by Dr. Neal ElAttrache.

Urias was optioned to Triple-A Oklahoma City in late May and placed on the disabled list with left shoulder discomfort several weeks into his assignment. At the major league level, he owned a 5.40 ERA, 5.4 BB/9 and 4.2 SO/9 through 23 1/3 innings, going 0-2 in five starts with Los Angeles. He made a brief rebound in Triple-A, posting three wins and striking out 17 of 67 batters in 17 1/3 innings before landing on the DL.

It’s a tough blow for the southpaw, who had yet to hit his stride in the majors before getting sidelined with shoulder issues. The Dodgers were especially mindful of this outcome for Urias, and had taken preventative measures to protect his arm by establishing a strict innings limit last season. According to club president Andrew Friedman, there’s a small silver lining here: while Urias’ injury will keep him out of work for at least 12 months, he doesn’t appear to have sustained any damage to his labrum or rotator cuff, and could be facing a much more streamlined recovery process as a result. Whether he’ll be able to rebound once he takes the mound again remains to be seen.

Tigers release Francisco Rodriguez

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Tigers’ right-handed reliever Francisco Rodriguez was released on Friday, per a team announcement. The club recalled fellow right-hander Bruce Rondon from Triple-A Toledo in a corresponding move.

The former closer got the boot after losing his closing role in early May, giving left-hander Justin Wilson a chance to impress at the back end of the bullpen. It’s been a rough year for Rodriguez, who manufactured six blown saves and a 7.82 ERA, 3.9 BB/9 and 8.2 SO/9 over 25 1/3 innings for the Tigers. The final straw, it seemed, came with Robinson Cano‘s grand slam in the seventh inning of the Tigers’ 6-9 loss to the Mariners on Thursday.

While the demotion to a clean-up role and an apparent lack of communication caused Rodriguez considerable frustration, he’s two years removed from his last dominant performance as a major league closer and has shown few signs of returning to form. His recent slump doesn’t diminish the impressive totals he’s racked up over his 16-year career — 437 saves and six All-Star nominations among them — but if he can’t break out of it soon, he may not receive the kind of high leverage role he’s seeking with another big league team, either.